Jennifer Watson Roberts is a former mayor of Charlotte and a lifelong champion of issues related to education and equality. She is the first person to be elected to serve as both chairman of the Mecklenburg County Commission and later as mayor of Charlotte. She currently works as the director of the Path to Positive Communities program with ecoAmerica, a national nonprofit working to build institutional leadership, public support, and political will for climate action in the United States.
Roberts was instrumental in creating a public/private partnership to build a new shelter in Charlotte for survivors of domestic violence and spearheaded the creation of Charlotte NEXT, an initiative dedicated to improving after-school programs for at-risk teens. During her tenure as mayor, the City of Charlotte set a goal of funding 5,000 affordable housing units over three years and is currently on track to exceed that goal.
Mayor Roberts also led the passage of a Charlotte Non-Discrimination Ordinance that included the LGBTQ community. Though this ordinance was later struck down by the North Carolina General Assembly, this discriminatory action by the state led to national attention, boycotts, and eventual partial reversal of the law known as HB2. In addition, more transgender candidates than ever ran for office around the country in the year following, and many have been elected.
Roberts has been a lifelong advocate for clean air and water and for environmental justice. While chair of the Mecklenburg County Commission, she championed a Park and Rec Master Plan, supported energy reduction and conservation in county operations, and headed a Clean Air Works initiative to reduce carbon emissions in area businesses and the county’s carbon footprint. As mayor, she signed the Mayor’s Climate Pledge and introduced a clean energy resolution for the City of Charlotte.
She has worked as a diplomat for the State Department, as an international banker, as an adjunct professor at UNC-Charlotte, and as a high school math teacher. She currently serves on numerous community boards and commissions, including the N.C. Grassroots Election Protection Coalition, Meck Ed, Caldwell Presbyterian Creation Care team, MeckMIN (Mecklenburg Metropolitan Interfaith Network), and more.
Roberts is a proud recipient of the Maya Angelou Women Who Lead award, the National Association of Women Business Owners’ Public Policy Leader of the Year award, and Equality North Carolina’s Ally of the Year award. She received her B.A. with highest honors in English from UNC-Chapel Hill, a masters in European history from the University of Toronto, and a masters in international affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. She and her husband Manley live in Charlotte but can usually be found on the weekends hiking the North Carolina mountains. They have two college-aged children.